In Depth: The Appleseed legend: the story behind Apple's unofficial mascot

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Close to the check-in desks at WWDC 2013, we hear a turmoil. As delegates queued to get their show passes, one tall, dark-haired and rather scruffy-looking man was snapping.

Event staff checked and inspected once more for a pass that hadn’t been there, the guy growing an increasing number of flustered, his voice rising as his cheeks colored.

And while you couldn’t make out his words from throughout the lobby, the body language was clear enough. He was still saying as 2 burly guard escorted him past the escalators and towards the front door, yelling over and over that someone had made a huge error. ‘Who was that guy?’ somebody just behind us asked.

We understood the answer to that one. That individual was John Appleseed.

Planting Appleseeds

If John Appleseed’s name doesn’t sound a bell, let’s do some jangling for you. He’s the face you saw demoing the initial iPhone, and in demonstrations of subsequent iPhones, too. His face beamed out from the dashboard when Tim Cook displayed iOS in the vehicle, and it’s his name you often see when Apple demos new software application.

Appleseed’s connection with Apple goes back to the beginning of the 1980s. Apple then was an extremely different company than it’s today: it became a public company in 1980 however hadn’t been a buttoned-up, blue-suited corporation like IBM, it was a blue-jeaned, open-necked shirt, bearded sort of business out to make a difference. Apple was Steve Jobs’ and Steve Wozniak’s child, but the firm’s CEO before was Mike Markkula, who Jobs had enticed from retirement with the promise of Apple’s potential.

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Markkula hadn’t been just an effective investor – he was a multi-millionaire by 32 – however a coder too, and he created some Apple II software application under a pseudonym: John Appleseed. That did not decrease well with the real, Cupertino-based John Appleseed, who’d actually already produced Apple II software application under his own name. It was not excellent software application, but Appleseed did not understand that. As far as he was concerned, somebody at Apple was attempting to pass themselves off as him.

Today he ‘d probably have actually hired an attorney and submitted fit versus Apple, but in the past there was a a lot easier way: confront Steve Jobs. Appleseed’s strategy, if you can call it that, was simple: going to Apple HQ in Bandley Drive and require a conference. However he had not reckoned on Sherry Livingston, Jobs’ right-hand man.

Despite Appleseed’s finest efforts, the door to Jobs’ workplace stayed shut. If Appleseed’s first plan was ropey, plan B was even worse. He waited outdoors on the street for Jobs to emerge, obviously unaware that when Jobs left work, he doinged this on his precious ’66 BMW motorbike. But Appleseed was lucky that day, due to the fact that Jobs fancied a walk. Not just that, he was in a good mood: he did not tell Appleseed to obtain lost, and when Appleseed suggested that Apple could recover its karma by providing him an employment, Jobs did not freak out. He just laughed. ‘Let us walk,’ Jobs stated. It was to become the beginning of an unusual relationship.

John Appleseed did not get a task, however Jobs got his contact number – and every few months he ‘d call to organize a meet-up. ‘It was not a regular thing,’ a source near Appleseed informed us. ‘They weren’t, like, beer friends or anything like that. It was more … Johnny was like a sounding board for Steve, someone who was not connected to Apple he might talk to and trust.’

It hadn’t been an equal relationship, however. ‘I don’t think Steve particularly wanted to hear what John thought. I think Steve simply desired somebody to hear him.’

Thinking different

Johnny Appleseed 2

Jobs’ calls to Appleseed ended up being more frequent in 1985 when his working relationship with Apple CEO John Sculley ended up being a power battle. ‘Steve was pretty paranoid in the past,’ our source recalls. ‘John was one of the few people he knew who did not have an agenda.’

Jobs’ profession steps are well documented, however Appleseed’s are more questionable: his employments were mainly temporary – moving from company to company in Silicon Valley, unconcerned with taking a certain career. He never did get that Apple job, however in the late 80s he made a 2nd Apple relationship: he satisfied and started to date Kate Shannon, who worked in Apple’s accounting division. He and Kate were married in 1991 and they’d a daughter, Jane, in 1993.

Jobs’ call were less regular in the very early 90s: Jobs had a family and 2 business – NeXT and Pixar – to run, and that did not leave much time for anything else. But by 1996 Jobs was back at Apple, and the phone calls resumed their previous regularity – and Appleseed would end up mad at Apple for a 2nd time.

Take a look at the TextEdit icon in OS X. If you blow it up or zoom in on the graphic to read the writing on the pad, you’ll see that it’s a note to Kate from John Appleseed. ‘Right here’s to the crazy ones,’ it states. ‘The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.’

‘Everybody thinks Apple’s ad firm came up with the ‘crazy ones’ spiel,’ an Apple insider told us. ‘But they didn’t. It was Appleseed’s concept, and Steve ran with it. The icon’s a nod to Appleseed, a within joke.’

As our source tells it, the real tale is this: Appleseed and Jobs were talking about Jobs’ personal approach, and the philosophies of Apple’s rivals. ‘You think various,’ Appleseed informed him. ‘You are insane enough to think you can alter the world.’ Possibly Jobs felt guilty for taking the credit, but quickly after the ‘Think Different’ campaign started he looked for Appleseed’s viewpoints more commonly, using him as a soundboard not just for Jobs’ ideas, but for actual products too. Appleseed mightn’t have been an Apple staff member, but he was an Apple insider.


The seeds are sown

At initially, Appleseed was pleased. He got sneak peeks of new items. Jobs asked his opinion on pre-production hardware. Appleseed was one of the first to see the iPod, and the iPhone, and the iPad, Jobs convinced that Appleseed would remain quiet – something that worried various other Apple execs.

‘Steve wouldn’t hear them,’ our source says. ‘To him, Appleseed was some type of mascot, a fortunate penny or something.’ Our source compared him to the rapper, Flavor Flav. ‘You know how Taste Flav doesn’t actually do anything, however Chuck D suches as having him around? Appleseed was like that.’

Appleseed hadn’t been just Steve Jobs’ court jester, though. He became part of the marketing team – albeit without anyone informing him. Apple advertising products do not simply appear over night: they are very carefully planned and created far beforehand, which means the marketing group needs photography and screenshots beforehand, too. As far as Jobs was concerned, the less people who in fact learnt about unannounced products, the much better – so why not get your real-world examples from somebody that you currently know and trust?

The initially that Appleseed understood of his brand-new duty was at Macworld ’07, when Steve Jobs presented the iPhone. ‘John nearly jumped from his seat when he saw his face on the screen,’ our source recalls. ‘Jobs had not mentioned it to him. He ‘d just assumed it would be all right.’ It wasn’t, because as part of the keynote Apple revealed a video of the iPhone being triggered – and that video showed Appleseed’s real mobile number (408-550-3542) and e-mail address ([email protected]).

Steve Jobs

Inevitably, Apple fans tried to obtain in touch. ‘John was quite pissed about that,’ our source told us. ‘He needed to change his number pretty much immediately.’ Jobs apologised, but comparable errors would plague Appleseed over the years: he’d to take down his Facebook account after it was featured in an iPhoto demonstration, and at WWDC 2008 he was alarmed to see his name on the ‘fusion of CT and PET’ scan demoed by MIMVista.

‘The actual scan was not John,’ our source states, ‘however he ‘d had his details leaked many times that he simply assumed that it was.’ Appleseed put up with it, though. Inflammations aside, he delighted in being in the (infinite) loop, the sensation of belonging to a remarkable business success story.

Out of the loop

Tim Cook did not share Steve Jobs’ high viewpoint of Appleseed, though, and when he became CEO, it was the start of completion. Jonathan Ive for one was eased.

‘Jony never ever understood why Steve suched as having him around, so he was pleased when Tim cut the lines of communication,’ our source says. ‘But Appleseed took it hard.’ Appleseed took the excommunication very personally. It did not help that Apple had discovered a new household for its item demonstrations: from late 2011, Apple advertising included younger, prettier people such as Kevin Dolan, Katharine Johnson and Janielle Penner. ‘John began drinking,’ a pal told us. ‘It ended up being a genuine problem for him.’

Appleseed would call Apple HQ at odd hours, leaving long, babbling messages. On a number of celebrations he showed up at Infinite Loop, clearly the even worse for wear, and reports swirled that his spouse, Kate, had actually kicked him out of the home. It was unusual, for that reason, to see his face at this year’s WWDC – not outside, attempting to obtain in, however up on the big screen as Tim Cook demoed iOS In The Automobile.

‘That was a genuine dick move,’ the pal says. ‘The person’s generally living in his vehicle by this point, and they are using his face to demo in-car entertainment. There’s no way that was not mull over.’

It’s clear that whatever the future holds for John Appleseed, he is not really going to discover it at Apple. ‘John was never part of the Apple household,’ our source discusses. ‘He belonged to Steve’s family. And when Steve died …’ Looking back on the keynotes now, the irony is evident: while there’s unlimited video footage revealing Appleseed calling Apple, there’s no footage of anybody really taking his calls.

The real Appleseed

The genuine Johnny Appleseed is not any relation to the fictitious one you see in Apple’s marketing products and keynotes: the initial Appleseed passed away in 1845. It was not his genuine name, either: he was born John Chapman in 1774. Appleseed came later on when he was a nurseryman, bringing non-native apple trees to parts of Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Chapman was an American folk hero, however abnormally he did not have to wait until he was dead to become one, in 1830, when Chapman was very much alive, author Henry Howe looked at numerous tales of his ventures. The tales paint Chapman as quite the duty design: he was kind, lived humbly, taken care of animals and preached the gospel as he took a trip. He was a pal to Native Americans, cared about the environment and was more thinking about helping aside from accumulating an individual fortune.

According to The Straight Dope, his attitudes were the opposite of other frontiersmen and females: ‘He thought it harsh to ride a horse, slice down a tree, or eliminate a rattlesnake.’ The legend portrays Chapman as a dreamer, merrily spreading apple seeds as he strolled, but he was a lot more organised than that: Chapman produced plant baby rooms and returned regularly to look at them – and he planted the baby rooms where he forecasted inhabitants would one day come. When his predictions, ahem, bore fruit his trees were currently a number of years of ages and ready to sell – and they sold due to the fact that the apples they grew were perfect for making liquor.

Like Steve Jobs, Chapman had charisma: as one lady told Harper’s New Monthly Publication in 1871, ‘His was a strange eloquence at times, and he was undoubtedly a guy of genius.’ She was clearly rather taken with him, but then again, he was not the type of person you ‘d forget in a rush: big-boned and sinewy, worn an old sack, putting on a tin pot on his head.

Chapman died in 1845, but his legend lives on in everything from Disney cartoons to NOFX records and the icon for Logic Pro X. Johnny Appleseed may be dead, however he certainly has not been forgotten.